21 December 2018
UPDATE: Pilato and five other activists acquitted in court. Read more here.
13 August 2018
UPDATE: The trial has been adjourned to 24 September 2018.
28 June 2018
UPDATE: Pilato’s trial has been adjourned until 10 August 2018 for further hearing.
23 May 2018
UPDATE: Zambian musician Chama Fumba, also known as Pilato, was released from detention on 21 May 2018 on a 30,000 kwacha (2,480 euros) bail after being arrested on 16 May 2018 at Zambia’s Kenneth Kuanda International Airport, reported Voice of America.
“Those that demand for better must be allowed the space and freedom to do so just like it is done for those that are happy with the mediocrity,” Pilato said of his release on Facebook.
Pilato — along with five others who were also detained, but released earlier than the musician — will stand trial on 25 June 2018 over charges related to participation in a September 2017 peaceful protest.
The original statement, entitled Freemuse calls for release of Zambian musician Pilato, was published on 18 May 2018 and appears below.
Musician and activist Chama Fumba, also known as Pilato, was arrested on 16 May 2018 upon arrival at Zambia’s Kenneth Kaunda International Airport in capital city Lusaka after he was forced to leave his home country on 5 January due to death threats over his new song Koswe Mumpoto (Rat in the Pot), which is said to criticise Zambian President Edgar Lungu, according to Amnesty International.
Further, after the musician was unable to attend a court hearing over charges related to his participation in a September 2017 peaceful protest, authorities issued a warrant for his arrest on 5 February, which is being contested as having been issued irregularly.
The musician, along with five other activists, appeared in court yesterday over the protest last year. All six activists pleaded not guilty to the charges, though Magistrate Mwaka Mikalile ordered that Pilato remain in detention until 21 May due to his previous failure to appear in court, reported Agence France Presse.
Freemuse urges Zambian authorities to release Pilato and stop the harassment of artists in Zambia and ensure that the right to freedom of expression, which includes artistic creations even if they are critical of authorities, is protected and respected in the country.
“It is concerning that Zambian authorities are denying citizens the right to artistic and political expression, especially when it is expressed through social media or peaceful protest. The silencing of artists through threats and persecution is creating an environment of fear in Zambia, which limits the freedom of artists to express themselves. We call on President Lungu to uphold the human rights protected under the international standards Zambia has signed on to and value such rights,” Freemuse Executive Director Dr Srirak Plipat said.
Pilato’s song is said to critise Zambian President Edgar Lungu, specifically alleging that the lyrics insult Patriotic Front (PF) government ministers and refer to President Lungu as a rat.
On 11 December 2017, Pilato was ordered by the ruling Patriotic Front (PF) party to stop singing the song and withdraw it online or be “dealt with”, according to Amnesty International.
Authorities also denied Pilato the required permits to perform at many of his pre-planned concerts and ordered TV and radio stations to stop playing the song. However, following Pilato’s refusal to remove the song, the musician received a multitude of death threats and threatening telephone calls; leading him to flee to South Africa after fearing for his life.
The September 2017 protest outside parliament concerned the purchase of 42 fire-fighting vehicles for 850,000 euros ($1 million USD) each, which was widely seen as exorbitant and a misuse of public funds. The six activists were arrested and beaten at the time and were later released on bail pending trial, according to Amnesty International.